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Be More, Do Less And Save Time

 
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I just came back from a BEING, DO NOTHING vacation. More than ever I spent time Being and doing nothing. No agendas, no digital, no schedules.  Lots of sleep, rests and more. I returned renewed, restored and relaxed beyond words. As human BEINGS we need Being time.

Vacations are important, however, we need to have Being time everyday.

The blog post saving time by doing LESS by Alex Cavoulacos from wework.comcame my way and it is so relevant to what I want to share about more time to Be.  She is on target offering us ways to save time by doing less.  Here are some of the tips that Alex suggests that I particularly resonated with:

  • Say no-it’s crucial-and she tells you how.
  • Let go of control – delegate more.
  • Pare your To Do List down by asking yourself, “What is the impact of doing this?” Great question. If there is no impact, let it go.
  • Length of meetings-shorten meetings to 20-30 minutes-that one gave me pause.

Those are smart Doing ways to save time so you have more of it.

We can also save time by Being more.

Here are some ways to Be more, Do Less and Save Time. The more we Be and stop doing, the more focused and clear we will become about what we have to do and how to do it. We will learn to let go of feeling stuck and taking things personally, and therefore save time. These Being times bring us back to center and into the presence of now, facilitate our receiving intuitions and inspirations and open our hearts.

As human beings we also need Being time to fulfill our natures.

Make time for Being in Silence and Solitude

  • Unplug everyday from everything for at least one minute. Gradually work up to three, five, ten or even fifteen! The longer the better.
  • Light a candle and sit quietly.
  • Meditate: sense your breath, watch your mind quiet and connect to your body and soul.
  • Do restorative yoga which includes holding poses for an extended period of time.
  • Soak in a bathtub.
  • Weed the garden.
  • Rock in your rocker.
  • Rest on a bed or sofa for a few minutes.
  • Practice mindfulness in all that you do. Click here for tips from Lynda.

Being more has you stopping, dipping into the well.

Returning to your center.

Resting in your inner home.

Going slower, saving time and living longer.

When we are in Harmony with ourselves, we are in harmony with the universe.

We want to be both Being and Doing, in the proper balance for who we are and the needs of the day. We want to live from our whole self, fulfilling our deepest potential.

***

Song of My Soul: a personal reflection

 
 

by Lynda Klau Ph.D.

Previously published by the Global Association For Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies

The first arm didn’t do it.   The second arm completed the transformation.   

Almost one year before, after I had broken my left upper arm, I would sit at my kitchen table in the dark of the night crying from the pain. As I did so I began to hear another voice, it was my very young self crying, now not from the physical pain but from the agony of long ago.

It’s Thursday morning, February 16th. I’m leaving my apartment building in New York City, stepping from the building’s front entrance to the street, when my left foot gets caught in my right pants leg. I crash down onto the sidewalk, landing with the entire weight of my body on my right shoulder and arm.

When I arrive at the hospital, the surgeon tells me that the humerus of my right arm is broken in three places and I dislocated my shoulder. He immediately schedules me for surgery.

After the operation, I’m home again. People keep telling me how traumatized I must be from the accident and the surgery. They’re right: I observe a tremendous amount of fear coursing through my body and my thoughts. I feel vulnerable, emotional, and powerless. For the first few nights, I’m afraid to sleep alone, so I have friends stay over. I only feel safe enough to leave the house using a hired car service— not even a street cab, let alone my own two feet. 

Clearly, part of me is being run by my most primitive emotions. But paradoxically, at the same time, I notice something new blossoming inside me.  

In the days that follow, I can do very little. I spend most of my time inside. My home is comforting; its simple beauty nourishes my soul. Almost every day, I wear my red velvet jacket lined in silk charmeuse. I feel like I’m being held by its loving arms. To eat, I order my favorite wild salmon miso stew: it is so warm and healing.   

Between my friends, family, and colleagues, as well as my therapist, body workers, surgeon and his team, I’m surrounded by a circle of love, support and protection. I watch myself begin to relax and feel safe. As I do so, my body begins to thaw. Only then do I realize how frozen it had been.

To my amazement, almost miraculously, as I begin to work with clients again, I notice that I’m more open, intelligent and present than ever before. My thoughts and energy flow, with stories and quotes leaping to the tip of my tongue. This is also true with close friends. 

By being mindful, I can hold what seems like this pot of contradictions. Now is not the time to figure any of this out. It’s the time to be quiet, take care, and listen. 

ii..  insight

It wasn’t until I finally went to the hairdresser for the first time since the accident— when my knotted, unkempt curls were lovingly washed, brushed and combed— that I had a profound insight into the nature of my trauma from the accident and the contradictions that emerged.

During the car ride home, I asked myself: “What are the facts about what I’ve been going through?” I told myself: “Well, I have a broken arm and I went through surgery.” Period. It wasn’t a life threatening accident, or a major operation. So why was my emotional response so intense? What was opening in me? Within the space of a breath, the answer came: my broken arm, as well as the surgery, had triggered a deep symbolic trauma rooted in my early self. 

iii. Sorting it Out: Interpersonal Neurobiology

In many ways, Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) provides a map of my transformation that I believe can be useful to others. My own experience validates and reinforces the framework of IPNB on a subjective level. Knowing this allowed me to embrace an even deeper evolution and awareness. Once I realized that I was living the map, I was able to let the map guide me further. 

From my current perspective, it is clear that the shock of my accident triggered what IPNB would call a limbic trauma originating from my early relationship with my mother. In the words of psychiatrist Donald Winnicott (1971) and the Attachment Research literature (Gerhardt, 2004), when a mother is “not good enough” and does not provide enough of her presence—her heart, her eyes, her attunement—the baby develops an insecure attachment. As a result, her earliest understanding of life and love is one of fear-based survival, rather than her own goodness, connection and inclusion. She feels isolated, unconnected and bad, and the world around her seems dangerous. 

Up until the period of my recovery, I had not been able to differentiate this early non-verbal limbic trauma from my present reality. Finally, feeling “safe enough” inside and without, surrounded by a loving “village,” and having the mindful awareness to observe my feelings without identifying with them, I was able to bring consciousness to this implicit limbic trauma. I could differentiate and hold my limbic wounded self with love and compassion. When it had words, I could listen. When it was unable to express itself, I could sense its feelings and put them into words. I could take care of my very young self in a way that my mother couldn’t. How lucky we are to be able to have a second chance at becoming ourselves.

The more I was able to differentiate my early limbic trauma from present reality, the more my hippocampus could do its job, integrating my left and right hemispheres. This felt like a huge bilateral leap forward.

At the same time that my emotional-psychological self was evolving, my body was transforming too. Our bodies are our psychological mirrors. The way I had previously held my body reflected the deep neural tracks of a scared, frustrated, and powerless woman. My awareness of what I could sense within my body deepened. What seemed like pounds of fear dropped away. A limp that I had developed years before— which I had tried everything to heal— began to disappear. My body-mind, vertical Integration, was now stronger than ever. Most importantly, I could trust my body to support me in a way I never could before.

As a result of all of this, my middle pre-frontal cortex became unblocked, stronger, and more present, enhancing my energies for the Nine Functions and integration in the Nine Domains.

My life changed in ways both subtle and profound. Now I was increasingly able to align with my calm center—what Dr. Dan Siegel (2012) terms “the hub of the wheel.” This is what mindfulness practice calls the “witnessing presence,” “awareness,” or the “invisible realm.” Rather than reacting from an undifferentiated limbic trauma, I could pause, breathe, reflect, and consciously choose how to respond. I had found my way out of the prison of conditioning and into freedom. I had finally earned a secure attachment. In my words I had finally come home. Hallelujah!

Of course, this doesn't mean that I’m immune to being triggered again, or temporarily falling into a limbic hole. Transformation and growth is always a cyclical process. Yet what I do know is that— like a train—I have changed tracks. 

iv.  Endings and New Beginnings

The steps that I experienced on my journey may have implications for all of us. Consider your life; consider how Interpersonal Neurobiology provides an exquisite framework that can help each of us cultivate and evolve our selves and our world.

What a joy to watch ourselves walking solidly on the ground between heaven and earth.

References

Gerhardt, S. (2004). Attachment Theory. Routledge, NY. 

Siegel, D. MD (2012). The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the

Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (2nd ed.). NY: The Guilford

Press.

Winnicott, D. MD (1971). Playing and Reality. Ann Arbor, MI: The

University of Michigan Basic Books.

©2013 Lynda Klau Ph.D.

Mindfulness: The New Zen of Time Management

 
 

By Lynda Klau Ph.D.

Previously published by the Global Association For Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies


As a licensed psychologist and business coach who has spent over two decades helping people who work in various business environments and professions - from the corporate world to small business, from CEOs to lawyers, artists and more - I've repeatedly heard comments confirming that almost everyone these days is harried, hurried, and exhausted. It's not an overstatement to say that the majority of us are having a significant crisis with Time and we've become Time's victims. What's more, we have no idea how to find freedom.

Here are just a few examples of comments I've heard not only from clients, but from colleagues as well:

"With work and my family occupying most of my time and energy, I feel the continuous pressure to meet my responsibilities. I constantly "keep on going" and I never sleep or relax. I have no idea how to pull myself out of this cycle!"

"All day long, virtually every day, I feel imprisoned by email, Facebook, my cell phone, and my Blackberry. It's consuming my life to the point that I can't focus on all that I want and need to get done."

"When I'm working in my office, my plans for the day constantly get derailed with interruptions and demands. I don't complete what I set out to do. "I spend so much time thinking about the past or the future that I feel like the present is slipping away. I know I'm missing out".

"Because I don't love my job, I feel unfulfilled at the end of the day. I don't have time to focus on what really matters."

Why The Old Solutions Don't Work
Clearly, this widespread problem requires a radical solution. But most traditional approaches to "Time Management" only ask us to change our behaviors, as if all our conflicts with Time could be solved simply by "establishing our priorities," "sticking to a concrete schedule," or "organizing our files." These external solutions are logical, but they're not psychological; they ignore the internal emotional conflicts and pressures that influence us on the most fundamental levels.

While it must be acknowledged that external pressures and distractions inundate us constantly, their effect on us can trigger internal psychological conflicts. These conflicts cannot be addressed only on an external or behavioral level. In fact, when left unaddressed, internal conflicts influence our behaviors profoundly, potentially wreaking havoc on our ability to maintain a healthy equilibrium with Time.

When we only try to change our behaviors, in neurobiological terms we're using the left hemisphere of our brain to logically decide how to manage our time. These external, behavioral resolutions, however, can easily be undermined by reactions from the limbic brain, which push us into a fight or flight survival state. This disrupts even our best-made plans, from completing tasks to following schedules, and makes interpersonal relationships more difficult (Siegel, 2007).

Here are two examples of how internal psychological issues can interfere with efficient Time Management:

  • Imagine you're the director of a branch of a real estate company. You're writing a promotional piece to advertise a new housing complex. Each time you sit down to work, you're inundated with interruptions. A co-worker asks you a timeconsuming question. The phone rings while your secretary is out to lunch; it's your daughter calling from school to say that she's sick. By the end of the day, exhausted, you realize that you wrote your piece within scattered, fifteen-minute chunks of Time.
  • Imagine you've been assigned to prepare a presentation at work for a group of your colleagues. With the best of intentions, you decide to start working on the project in the morning, when your energy is at its best. Even though you've planned to leave your whole morning free, you put off working on the presentation until the last minute. By procrastinating, you've wasted your best energy and wind up rushing to finish the presentation.

Although the first example might seem to describe only external factors interfering with time, varying degrees of internal conflicts might be at work under the surface as well. These could range from the inability to create professional boundaries, to trouble setting limits, to fear of delegating responsibilities and giving up control. In the second example, no amount of external time management solutions can address the unconscious internal conflicts that cause procrastination. These could range from beliefs rooted in childhood experience, such as "They'll judge and attack me," "I'm not good enough to do the job well," or "I'm terrified to speak in public."

In both of these situations, old neural nets from childhood are likely suppressing our ability to function from a balanced state of mind. From infancy, neural nets that can hamper us as adults are generated when early caregivers aren't sufficiently attuned to our physical and emotional needs. These experiences create implicit memories, including nonconscious mental models about our worth, our abilities, and the way the relational world works. When there is not sufficient empathy in our early environment, such neural nets remain dissociated from the flow of the integrating brain, so when they are triggered in adulthood, our rational choices are overwhelmed by the super-fast limbic rush of these mental models. We may fully intend to work on a pressing project, and find ourselves consuming ice cream instead. Because these experiences are dissociated from connection with the middle prefrontal cortical regions, we are deprived of the complex processing available there, including the capacity to see a range of options and the response flexibility to choose the best option and act on it. Consequently, we're less able to address clearly and potently the issues that arise regarding ourselves, others, and the task at hand, making it virtually impossible for us to make decisions from a place of choice and freedom (Siegel, 2007).

Although we can't always change our external situation, we do have the ability to influence our degree of neural integration, giving us the power to change our internal and external responses to challenges. The freedom given by increased capacity for choice is an effective time management skill that frees our energy for the task at hand, while changing the quality of our work and life.

Ideally, each of us experiences the integration of body, thoughts, and feelings or, to say it neurobiologically, body, left hemisphere, and right hemisphere. Any successful approach to time management must incorporate all of these aspects of our being, each of which shapes the way we interact with and relate to Time. In order to manage Time successfully, we first must learn to manage ourselves. It's important to recognize the significant difference between "management" and "control." Rather than closing off from difficult feelings or beliefs in order to regain control, true self-management involves being in touch with all parts of ourselves. In this way, we can gradually develop the capacity to respond to any situation from a place of awareness and choice, rather than be pulled off track by external pressures, old neural nets, and our own feelings and beliefs. As we become increasingly aware of internal (psychological, emotional, and bodily) factors that inform the way we relate to Time, our middle prefrontal cortex begins to integrate with previously dissociated limbic firing. So the next question is, "How do we promote the neural integration that will lead to greater freedom in regard to Time?"

Mindfulness: A Radical Solution to Time Management

Originally derived from the Buddhist tradition, but increasingly applied to a wide spectrum of Western modalities for mental and physical well-being, mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness to what is emerging in the present moment. This refers to what is occurring for us internally (our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs) and externally (the environment around us) from moment to moment. It is a radical wake-up call to become conscious of all parts of ourselves, bringing to awareness the unconscious behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs that have been running us.

Research demonstrates that mindfulness facilitates brain-wide integrative processes, including vertical integration (body, limbic, and cortex) and bilateral integration (right and left hemispheres). Mindfulness meditation shifts the brain laterally toward the left, which increases the potential for approach states of mind, allowing us to confront and resolve problems (Davidson, 2004). Correspondingly, Lazar and colleagues have found that long-term mindfulness meditation increases the thickness of the middle prefrontal cortical region (Lazar, et al 2005). For there to be measurable changes in cortical thickness, a great many new synaptic connections must be made. As integration between the middle prefrontal and limbic regions occurs, we are more resilient under stress and have increased response flexibility, allowing us to pause and process our responses to any situation more slowly and completely (Lutz, Duane, and Davidson, in press).

One key to improving our relationship with Time is developing a "mindful awareness" of ourselves at all levels. This offers a fresh perspective from which we can nonjudgmentally witness whatever is arising for us in the present, internally and externally, from a place of curiosity and openness. When we encounter the present with new eyes, we are less likely to identify with the unconscious feelings and beliefs that interfere with our relationship with Time. This opens the door to new possibilities and solutions.

Research by Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer and Tenet (2006) indicates that the more mindful we are, either by nature or by practice, several benefits will result:

we are much less likely to react to thoughts and feelings as they occur;we increasingly notice, observe, and attend to our sensations and perceptions;we increasingly act with awareness;we have the increased ability to describe all of our experience in words;we become increasingly non-judgmental.

With enough practice, mindfulness can become a trait of being, rather than just a transient state of mind as it is when we first begin to practice. This will profoundly affect the functioning of our body and brain, our thoughts and feelings, and our relationship with ourselves and others (Siegel, 2007).

Simple Steps for Developing Mindful Awareness

If you are a newcomer mindfulness practice, taking a kind attitude toward yourself is an important part of the process. For many of us, our minds are used to running very quickly in many directions, so it will take some time for the capacity for focus to emerge. As you approach your practice each day, coming to it with an open state of mind, without expectations about how it will go relieves the additional tension that comes with pre-judging the experience.

Here's a traditional, easy-to-follow exercise to help develop mindful awareness:

Sit down in a room where you won't be disturbed.Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing.Become aware of yourself inhaling and exhaling.It's natural for your attention to become distracted from your breath. When your attention becomes distracted, don&'t judge yourself. Simply gently return to your inbreath and your out-breath.Practice the above steps until you've developed the ability to sustain focus on your breath.From this place, continue to focus on your breath, and expand your focus to allow your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and bodily sensations to enter your awareness, receiving all experience with an attitude of openness, curiosity, and love.

Developing mindful awareness isn't just limited to exercises like this. Mindfulness can be practiced in many other ways: from washing the dishes, to weeding the garden, to listening to music, to doing yoga. Any activity can be an opportunity to stay in the present moment and allow the richness of experience to change the way we perceive and behave.


The more we become mindfully aware of ourselves from moment to moment, each level of our being will communicate to us with increasing power. This open channel of communication with all parts of ourselves will reveal the internal mental, emotional, and interpersonal issues that are interfering with our ability to manage our Time.

Making Mindfulness a Way of Living

In the words of the poet Stanley Kunitz: "You must grab ahold of time and draw it into your self. You must train it so that it corresponds to your own interior rhythms. Otherwise, you'll be chasing [time] all your life."

To truly manage Time requires making mindfulness a way of living, as we remain aware of our bodies, feelings, and beliefs from moment to moment. This means respecting our own natural energetic rhythms and responding to each situation accordingly. As soon as we notice that we've slipped back into our automatic reactions, triggered by dissociated limbic neural networks, we can mindfully choose to "wake up" again.

When we live from a mindful place of alignment and integration, new possibilities and solutions will emerge. All parts of us work together as a whole. Just as a choir that sings in harmony, where each individual's voice synchronizes perfectly within the whole, through mindfulness we become more than the sum of our parts, reclaiming the full power of who we are. The challenges and conflicts that once overwhelmed us and ran our lives no longer threaten us. We're able to pay attention to important deadlines and timeframes while still giving ourselves the space to enter the fullness of the present moment, the source of our calmness, creativity, and inspiration. In this way, we live at the intersection of Time and Timelessness. This is true freedom.

References

Baer, R.A., Smith, G.T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 27-45.

Davidson, R.J. (2004). Well-being and affective style: Neural substrates and biobehavorial correlates. Philosophical Transactions Royal Society London, B, 359, 1395-1411.

Lazar, S.W., Kerr, C.E., Wasserman, R.H., Gray, J.R., Greve, D.N., Treadway, M.T. et al (2005). Mediation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893-1897.

Lutz, A., Dunne, J.D., & Davidson, R.J. (in press). Mediatation and the neuroscience of consciousness. In P.D. Zelazo, M. Moscovitch, & E. Thompson (Eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Siegel, D.J. (2007). The mindful brain: Reflection and attunement in the cultivation of well-being.New York: W. W. Norton.

 

Lynda Klau, Ph.D. ©2013

Transference: Cleaning up the Past and Entering the Moment

 
 

Originally posted July 21, 2010

by Lynda Klau, Ph.D.

Defining the Issue

Faced with the deep uncertainty of our times, many of us desire not only to live better and more successful lives, but to find an expanded vision of who we are, through which we can fulfill our deepest potential and to contribute to the world. Knowingly or unknowingly, we seem to be moving collectively in the direction of this "wisdom perspective." Whether it is yoga, bodywork, or meditation, all these tools are valuable in some way, and give each of us more power to work and live creatively.


The "wisdom perspective" invites us to embrace a level of being that transcends the personal self. This contrasts sharply with the traditional Western psychological model that identifies us with the personal self. But how can we create a solid foundation for moving beyond the personal self without having first developed a sufficiently healthy one?


As more of us move toward the "wisdom perspective," we risk shortchanging ourselves of the tools offered by traditional psychology. This creates a serious problem. We are bypassing the basic issues that only traditional psychology can address.


If turning towards the "wisdom perspective" is simply designed to cover up the dysfunctional beliefs of the personal self that we inherited from our families and our culture, then this equates to a new way of avoiding old issues. The bottom-line is that this doesn't work. As long as we keep ignoring them, our personal issues will remain in conflict. Our basic psychological issues deserve to be understood and healed, not just released or "transcended."


The value of using traditional psychology to complement the wisdom perspective can be demonstrated by exploring one important psychological phenomenon: the concept of transference.

Transference: A Key Psychological Concept.

Transference, in the broadest definition of that term, refers to the unconscious act of redirecting or projecting the feelings that we had toward our parents or early caregivers onto people in our everyday lives. To say that it affects our behavior constantly would be an understatement.

Imagine that your boss doesn't look you in the eyes and it instantly makes you feel exactly as your father did when he treated you dismissively as a child. Imagine walking into a job interview and finding that the person behind the desk talks constantly about herself, which unconsciously triggers the way you felt when your father incessantly lectured you without asking your opinions. Lastly, how many times have you been strongly triggered by someone, either positively or negatively, without knowing why? The truth is that most of us react to these transferential situations emotionally and unconsciously. The "wisdom-perspective" would advise us to detach from the situation at hand because our personal feelings do not reflect the objective facts. One of the common catchphrases of the wisdom perspective is "Don't take it personally!" But what happens when we can't help but do so?


If we understand the psychological concept of Transference, then we realize that the 'real" situation we're dealing with often triggers a "symbolic" one that is often unconscious, activating feelings that arise from our past. By addressing Transference, we begin to distinguish between what is real and what is symbolic, allowing us to return to everyday situations with awareness and choice.

Transference Exercise

Here is an exercise to be done in your own private time and space, designed to help decrease the negative effects of Transference in your life:


Step 1: List the people in your everyday world who "push your buttons."

Step 2: Select one person on which to focus specifically.

Step 3: Perform a review of your feelings about this person. Ask yourself: "What happened in reality? Who in my past does this remind me of? How do I feel about that person?"

Step 4: Now visualize a boundary and separate the "real" person you're dealing with from the "symbolic" person they trigger

Step 5: Listen non-judgmentally to the feelings triggered by the "symbolic" person. For example, pay attention to the things you might have wanted to say or do to someone from your past, but which you never did. You may even want to write your feelings down concretely.

Step 6: Return to the "real" situation. What has changed?

This exercise should be repeated as often as necessary. It brings us back to the "real" situation with a greater sense of emotional freedom and clarity. The more conscious we become of our transferential responses, their effect on us will increasingly diminish. We will not simply unconsciously react to a person or a situation, but we will respond productively with awareness and choice.

Concluding Reflections: Reintegrating the Wisdom Perspective

Since the phenomenon of Transference is so ubiquitous in our relationships, it is invaluable to remain open to addressing it. In working through these "symbolic" projections, we increasingly establish a clearer boundary between our internal thoughts and feelings and the external realities we face daily. We can then appreciate Transferential situations not as areas of conflict, but as opportunities for growth. This process not only fosters a more sturdy, healthy, personal self: a great accomplishment unto itself, but also facilitates our immersion into the joys of the "wisdom perspective" as well.

Lynda Klau, Ph.D.   ©2013

 

 

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Reclaim Your Authentic Voice: Drinking From the Well

 
 

Originally posted June 8, 2011

by Lynda Klau, Ph.D.

We all yearn to be real, to feel connected to ourselves and to others. Often, however, we lose this connection. We're not living from our deepest passion, but we cannot find a way to bring it into our lives. We yearn to be more successful at work, but we lack the courage to take the necessary steps. Or perhaps a personal crisis, such as divorce or illness, has shaken our foundations. To survive, we let fear push down our true feelings, so that the creativity and wisdom we long to bring forth remains buried and unborn. In this way, we remain unconscious of and avoid our entire spectrum of emotions and beliefs, from fear to anger to loneliness to love, and we never transcend them to discover the authentic self within that is filled with wisdom beyond convention.

Paradoxically, to live from our authenticity means two things: on the one hand, to connect with our innermost "core" truth: that unchanging place in us that receives our deepest inspiration, intuition, and insight, and on the other hand, to honor the feelings and beliefs of our personal self, ingrained in us by our parents and society. In other words, to live authentically means preserving an openness and natural harmony between our hearts, our bodies, and our minds. Once we have aligned with our truth at this "core" level, we can embrace our personal self from a perspective of understanding, compassion, and freedom, in other words, from our "wholeness." To be authentic, therefore, involves honoring all of who we are: our thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations.

How Do We Lose Our Connection to Our Authentic Self?

Let's call the largest, outermost circle the "persona," the public mask we show to the world. This is the part of us that seeks approval for our achievements in our daily and professional lives. Trapped in our "persona," we define our value based on our surface level of "success": the kind car we drive, the size of our house or television screen, or the amount of power we have in our job.

The second circle can be called the "shadow," the private self that we are afraid to show to others and often even to ourselves. This is the part of us that we suppress for fear that it would be met with disapproval if acknowledged and expressed. The "shadow" is the voice in us that judges and fears our anger, our sadness, and even our love. It feels shamed or guilty by what it construes to be our weaknesses and failures. In the depths of the "shadow," we suffer from a fundamental belief that we are "bad," or at least "not good enough."

The more we fixate upon or overly identify with these first two circles, the more we lose connection with the third, innermost circle, our "core." This is the intuitive "gut" self that knows our own intrinsic goodness and self-love, and also recognizes it in others. Our "core" remains unaffected by either our perceived achievements or our shortcomings. Rather, it is the place in us that follows our deepest passions in the face of enormous social and psychological pressures. Think of the dissatisfied student who leaves business school in order to become a photographer, or the computer expert who quits her corporate job to start her own business. History provides many examples of individuals who have had the courage to speak out beyond conventional rules and to follow the song of their souls.

To the extent that we stop listening to our center, however, our center stops communicating with us clearly and succinctly. We either become stuck on the surface of the "persona" or we sink into the depths of the "shadow," and we believe that either one or the other represents the real Truth about us: "I'm great because I have a Mercedes!" or "I'm a failure because I don't have a Mercedes." These types of beliefs profoundly affect our minds, our hearts, and our bodies. When we define ourselves by such extreme voices, we become nothing more than a "good" learned-self and a "bad" learned-self, but never a true, authentic self.

How Can We Reclaim our Authentic Voice?

Our Western culture teaches that the personal self is the center of our universe, the place where all of our competing, conditioned voices live. In this model, the rational mind of the personal self reigns supreme. The first step toward reclaiming our authenticity, however, is to embrace a more expansive model of who we think we are and of how we view the world. In truth, the whole of who we are is more than sum total of our personal self, our "persona" and our "shadow." It is necessary to deconstruct the old hierarchy that places our ego above our core self, our heart and our body. Once we realize that all parts of us deserve to be listened to, we can begin to refocus our intentions and our attention upon reclaiming our authentic voice.

Our ability to impartially observe any part of us has been called our "witnessing presence." This refers to a place within us that stands apart from our conditioned beliefs and self-judgments. It allows us to differentiate between, harmonize, and ultimately transcend them. To develop our "witnessing presence" just as we would any other muscle is the key to emerging from our obstructions into an authentic way of living. From this perspective, we enter a space in consciousness that is separate from our identifications with the personal self's thoughts and feelings, but which also respects them. This allows us to experience these beliefs fully without becoming lost in them. From here, the authentic adult in us surfaces, the person who can successfully integrate all of his or her conditioned voices and selves, as well as open to fresh inspirations.

Imagine that you have been in business for fifteen years and you've just been downsized. Your savings are minimal and your expenses have not changed: the monthly bills keep piling up in the mailbox, and no new business is coming in. A common response to such a situation would be to automatically respond with negative thoughts, beliefs and feelings rooted in fear: "I will never be able to recover financially. What am I going to live on? I will never be able to support myself and my family." Harsh self-judgments and blame typically accompany these beliefs: "This is my fault! I must have done something wrong!" It is crucial to realize that these beliefs, whether coming from the "persona" or "the shadow," are just that: beliefs. Rather than representing the entire truth about us, our beliefs account for only one way of responding to a difficult situation. In reality, our deepest wisdom does not speak to us judgmentally. When situations challenge us, it is the authentic adult in us, supported by the "witnessing presence," that keeps reminding ourselves that our negative thoughts and feelings are not based in actual reality, but in our default, conditioned beliefs.

An Exercise: Developing Your "Witnessing Presence," the Key to Unlocking your Authentic Voice

The following exercise is designed to launch you on your journey toward reclaiming your authentic voice by helping you to develop a strong "witnessing presence":

1. Think of a situation that is currently a source of stress and conflict in your life. For example, this situation could involve a frustrated desire to move forward professionally or personally. It could also involve difficulties in your family or in your romantic life.

2. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. In your left column, make a list of concrete facts describing this situation. In your right column, list your feelings and beliefs about this situation.

3. Often, we are so entrenched in our feelings that we mistake them for facts. Carefully examine each item on each list and ask yourself, to the best of your ability, whether the "facts" are actually objectively true, or if they are your subjective emotions or beliefs. Facts, for example, don't tell us "The sky is falling!"; only feelings do!

4. Based on your findings, reconfigure the two lists so that you have a more accurate reflection of what information is purely factual and what is based in your own personal and subjective reactions.

5. Without judging, look at the column on the right, where you have listed your feelings. Do they seem disproportionate to the facts? If so, try to listen to them with the knowledge that these are your subjective beliefs and feelings, not objective facts that define the situation or who you are.

6. Give yourself the space to inhabit and express these feelings on the page. You are now beginning to witness your feelings without becoming entirely identified with them.

7. Return to the "facts" of the situation with this new perspective. Having developed our "witnessing presence," and having realized that our subjective responses to a situation are not a direct reflection of reality, we are in fact developing our authentic voice, a tool of extraordinary power. The feelings and beliefs rooted in our "persona" and our "shadow" suddenly become less daunting. Their power over us is diminished profoundly because we see them in their proper light. This offers the adult in us the ability to address challenging situations from a more knowing, creative, and proactive place.

Final Thoughts

The power of possessing our authentic voice applies to virtually every aspect of our lives, from relationships, to our self-image, to our careers. The power of increased authenticity creates a larger perspective of hope and possibility, profoundly transforming our sense of who we are.

Aligned with this greater perspective, we have a second-chance to overcome the limitations of our upbringings. There emerges a space for our authentic self to flourish, manifesting our deepest inspiration, creativity and wisdom. Having reclaimed our real power, our freedom, and our choice, we can truly drink from the well of our entire being.

By rooting ourselves in our authenticity, we not only shift our personal sense of self, but we radically transform our ability to communicate with others. We can respectfully honor diverging opinions, whether they agree with us or not. In this way, we even become a vehicle for enacting larger changes in the world. Just imagine the possibilities of a group of individuals joining to express their authentic voices together.

Lynda Klau, Ph.D. ©2012